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Together for Christmas

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Yu’s vision blurred as he stared down at the same page he’d been trying to get through for the past fifteen minutes. He had planned to take a study break thirty minutes ago, but he’d convinced himself to push on in hopes of finishing his review early. Instead, his productivity dropped significantly, and he was nursing the beginnings of a headache. The first semester of his sophomore year in university had been like this from start to finish. No wonder his senpais in the psychology department had given him sympathetic glances all summer. 

Bzzt. 

Yu startled, nearly rising from his chair. His right hand twitched for a handle he had not held in years. Some habits died hard, especially –he glanced out the window—on rainy days. Rather than a TV or a shadow, it was his phone that had sounded off. 

He picked it up and felt all his tension melt away at the sight of a single name. Yosuke. 

Prtnr u still up? 

Yu guessed Yosuke had just finished his shift at Junes and was walking home. He always texted Yu then. It was the easiest time for them to talk since Yu was undoubtedly awake and Yosuke was free of responsibilities. 

Yes. Are you leaving Junes? 

Yeah can i call u? 

It had been a while since he had heard his best friend’s voice. Yu smiled, then tried to taper down his response as though there was someone else in his small Tokyo apartment.

Yes. 

Within moments, he was on the phone with Yosuke. 

“Hey Partner.” Yu’s breath hitched. It was just because he hadn’t heard Yosuke in a while. That was all. “What are you doing up so late?” Okay, no, he just liked his voice. Damn it, now was not the time to have these thoughts. It was too late, and he was too tired to rationalize them. 

“Studying. My finals are next week.” 

“Oh, right. It’s about that time, huh? I guess I’ve been so busy I didn’t realize. Sorry, Partner.” 

“No, it’s all right. I should take a break.” 

“It’s been a while since I’ve been in school, so I guess I forgot what it’s like. I hope you’re not overworking yourself.” 

Yu grimaced. “Well…” 

He heard Yosuke sigh. “Partner,” he basically whined, “If you get sick, it’s not like your parents are there to take care of you. You’ll make everyone worry, especially Nanako.” 

As much as Yu hated to be on the receiving end of Yosuke’s chastising, he knew he was right. Yu had lived alone since he started university last year, and truthfully, it was not like his parents would do much for him even if they were in the country. Their approach to raising him had always been very hands-off. 

“Sorry for worrying you.” 

“Nah, it’s my fault you’re alone. I should be there with you.” 

“Yosuke—”

“—I should’ve passed this year. Ugh. If only I wasn’t such a shitty test taker!” Yu wished he could hug Yosuke. He’d been blaming himself for months. Not being accepting anywhere their third year had been hard on Yosuke, but he had gotten out of his funk by telling himself it just meant he’d have ample time to save up and really think about what he wanted to study. He was supposed to get in this year but had missed passing by three points, and Yosuke would not let himself forget it. No matter how many times Yu or their other friends tried to cheer him up. “I-I know, I know, sorry, Partner. I’ll stop. Um. A-Anyway, let’s talk about something else. You got a cute date for Christmas Eve?” 

Yu blushed despite the fact he most certainly did not have a cute date for Christmas Eve, let alone any date. It was just embarrassing to be asked by Yosuke. Why? Well, Yu thought it was better not to dive too deep into that. 

“No.” 

“Damn. Me neither. Guess it will be another year of bachelorhood for us. Ugh.” 

Yu chuckled. “Too bad we guys can’t get together again this year.” 

“You mean like that year we spent Christmas Eve with Kanji and Teddie?” 

“Mhm.” 

“Ah, well, Teddie went back to the TV world for a while, and well, Kanji and Naoto are finally together, so…guess not.” Silence fell between them. Yu listened as Yosuke’s short breaths filled the phone. No doubt he was cold walking through Inaba late at night in December. “I-I really miss you, Partner.” 

Yu’s heart fluttered. “I miss you too…” 

“What if—no, nevermind.” 

“What is it?” 

He practically heard Yosuke flinch. “What if I came to see you?” His words came out in a rush. “I’d only be able to stay for Christmas Eve. I have to work part of the day on Christmas, so I would have to be on the first train in the morning, but it’s just…I haven’t seen you since June, and I’m going crazy here, man! It’d be nice to spend time together, just the two of us, like we used to.” 

Yu missed Yosuke just as much. Texting and the occasional call were not enough. He missed seeing Yosuke’s sunshine smile, hearing his laugh, flustering him with whatever silly, weird thing he did just to get a rise out of him. 

“I would like that.” 

“R-Really?” Yosuke sounded surprised. 

“Yeah. So long as it isn’t too much of an inconvenience for you.” 

“You’re never an inconvenience, Partner. Y-Yeah, okay! I’ll come up that morning on the earliest train, and we can spend the whole day together. That wouldn’t be weird, right? Two guys alone on Christmas Eve?” 

“No, of course not.” Yu’s pounding heart seemed to protest that, but luckily, Yosuke could not hear it through the phone. “We can just hang out. We don’t have to celebrate Christmas.” 

“Y-Yeah! We’ll keep it casual.” 

“Right. Casual. So that means no gift exchange?”

“Seeing you is gift enough, Partner.” 

Truthfully, Yu felt the same, but…he was definitely getting Yosuke something, and he’d just have to forgive him for it. “All right.” 

They did not stay on the phone for much longer. Yosuke arrived home and didn’t want to wake his parents, and Yu really needed to get to sleep. After all, he had a whole day of studying and planning for Yosuke’s visit ahead of him. Yu usually went to Inaba to see Yosuke, his family, and the rest of their friends. This would be the first time Yosuke was visiting him. Everything had to be perfect. 

Yu glanced around his one-room apartment. It was the perfect size for Yu as he didn’t need much, but there was a reason he didn’t invite guests over. Between his futon, the coffee table that doubled as a desk, and other necessary furniture, it would be standing room only with another person. Not that he minded being that close to Yosuke—Yu shook his head. He seriously needed to go to bed so he could stop thinking. 

~

Yu anxiously paced the four feet of free space in his apartment, starting by the door, through the kitchen that doubled as an entryway and stopping once he reached the coffee table. He was more strung up now than he had been during his exam week. It was 6 AM, and Yu was buzzing with frenetic energy. 

He’d wanted to greet Yosuke at the train station. After all, that was good etiquette for receiving a guest. However, Yosuke had insisted he would take the train to Yu’s stop and walk. It was not about safety. He and Yosuke had faced much worse than an empty, early morning street in the TV world. It was not even about etiquette because he knew Yosuke didn’t care about stuff like that. It was about control. Now he had no idea when to expect Yosuke, which meant he was stuck in anticipation until he heard the knock on his door, and it was driving him crazy. His anxiety was worsened by the aggressive, embarrassing thoughts he’d had about Yosuke following their conversation. 

Bang Bang

Yu jumped. It was too soon. How did Yosuke get here so quickly? Yu paused, took a breath, and closed his eyes. What was he even thinking? The more time they had together, the better. He should be happy. He was happy. 

He opened the door, and once he saw Yosuke’s slightly reddened face, he felt silly for ever worrying. Yosuke grinned widely, eyes bright, and hair askew even under the orange beanie he wore. “Partner!” He surprised Yu by pulling him into a tight hug despite the backpack he wore. Yu nearly jumped at how cold Yosuke’s nose was pressed into his neck, but it served to help him remember his manners and welcome Yosuke inside properly. 

After a few moments of awkward shuffling and presses against each other, Yosuke and Yu were seated at his coffee table, nursing cups of hot coffee. Yosuke’s bag and layers of jackets had been set aside, and the small TV that used to be in Yu’s room at Dojima’s served as background noise for their reunion.  

Yu examined Yosuke closely as he prattled on about his train ride and how jealous their other friends were that he was getting to visit. In particular, Rise had been especially vocal about the perceived unfairness even though she was touring in South Korea. Yu had seen Yosuke in March, so rationally, Yosuke should not have changed that much, but somehow, Yu felt he had changed drastically. Yosuke’s hair was a tad longer, hovering nearer to his shoulders every time Yu saw him. It appeared he had stayed true to his cardio routine as he was as lean as ever. Yu also perceived some added bulk to his shoulders and arms—why was he staring so hard at his muscles? Did he always admire Yosuke this way? 

Well, Yu had always been in tune with Yosuke’s physique, if he was honest. When they were in high school, he noticed how chasing shadows and saving people in the TV world had affected Yosuke’s body. He also saw how much he had matured since Yu said goodbye that year to when he visited during Golden Week. Then again, for Halloween and a few times his first year in college. Their beach reunion this June with the others had been incredibly eye-opening. Yu blushed. 

“You okay, Partner?” Yu imploded. Yosuke’s long fingers were tapping atop Yu’s as he tightly gripped his coffee mug. He could only nod, which drew more suspicion from Yosuke. Yosuke’s lips pouted slightly as he leaned forward. “I can read you pretty well after all these years, you know.” Yosuke lifted his hand from Yu’s and planted it onto Yu’s forehead. “You didn’t actually get sick, did you?” 

“N-No. Sorry. I think…” Yu lied. He lied through his teeth. “I’m just embarrassed at the state of my apartment.” 

Yosuke glanced around. “Well, it’s small but isn’t every place in Tokyo? Plus, it’s spotless. Cleaner than my room in my parent’s house.” He winced. “Er, you have no reason to worry, Partner. Well, okay, that cat clock is a little creepy, but…anyway, shouldn’t we decide what we’re doing today?” 

Yu nodded as though he had not spent weeks agonizing over which activities would be best. “Was there something you wanted to make sure you did before you left?” 

“Oh, er, well…” Yosuke rubbed the back of his neck, and Yu was transfixed by the way his arm moved. “I know we said we wouldn’t do any Christmas stuff, but I was thinkin’…it wouldn’t hurt to do something special for dinner and get a cake, right? Kinda seems wrong not to. Don’t you think, Partner?”

Images of sharing a candlelit dinner with Yosuke and spoon-feeding him cake intruded into Yu’s thoughts. He did have candles. They were the cat ones Nanako had gifted him for his birthday. Wait. That was beside the point. Yosuke wanted to have a special dinner and share a Christmas cake? Yu could do this. This was familiar territory. 

“I could cook,” he suggested as though he were on autopilot. 

Yosuke instantly looked delighted though his pleasure did not last long and faded to a guilty frown. “I’m already crashing here. I’d feel bad making you cook for me too.” 

This time, Yu assertively shook his head. “I’d be happy to cook. It’s been a while, right?” 

“Yeah. I’ve missed your cooking…I-I mean not just the cooking, ah. Geez. Um. If you don’t mind, that would be great, but I insist on paying for the ingredients and for the cake.” Yu opened his mouth to refuse, wanting to be a good host, but Yosuke silenced him with his hand. “I insist, Partner. It’s the least I can do, especially since there isn’t much room in there for me to help out.” 

“Oh.” He was right. Just getting into the apartment had been a game of limbs and chests pressed to backs. “Okay.” Yu smiled, and Yosuke returned it with double the force. 

“Did you have anything in mind, Partner? I bet you’ve been researching things.” 

Yu was effectively called out. He fought against his fluster as best as he could. “I had a few thoughts.” Yosuke flashed him a shit-eating grin that Yu could not back down from. “Unfortunately, I could not find a service hosting women dressed-up as nurses.” 

Yosuke spat out the coffee he’d just drank, spraying the table and Yu’s face. He supposed he deserved that. 

“Partner, come on!! Can we just let that die!” His red face sunk into his hands as he whined in a way Yu probably should have found less cute. He couldn’t help but laugh. Yosuke peeked through his fingers and eventually joined him. Yosuke’s peals of laughter soothed his heart in a way he hadn’t realized he’d been missing. When they finally settled down, Yu could not hide the fond expression he wore as he stared at Yosuke, and to his surprise, Yosuke looked at him the same. It made him tingle

“Well, after we clean this up, I’ll make us some breakfast, and then we can get ready to go.” Yu stood and took the few steps it took to get to his kitchen. He felt Yosuke’s eyes on him as he bent over to open his fridge. 

“But you didn’t tell me what your ideas were, Partner?” 

Yu smiled at him from over the fridge door. “I thought I could surprise you.” 

“O-Okay. I trust you.” He suddenly looked at his phone, and Yu was grateful for it. His face felt too warm to be its natural color. 

Yosuke had said casual. Yu knew the definition of the word that was not the problem. It was whether his ideas counted as such. They could go to Destinyland and ride all the rides and eat all the food; it could still be fun even if the park was Christmas-themed. There was an ice-skating rink nearby that could provide him an opportunity to witness Yosuke’s dexterity, or he may end up peeling Yosuke’s face from the ice. He could take Yosuke on a walk amongst the Christmas lights and see how the light reflected in Yosuke’s golden-brown eyes. He wanted to see him smile, watch his breath float into the air, and walk with arms pressed against each other to keep warm. 

The hand that was wiping his coffee table clean stuttered. None of these ideas were essentially platonic, especially not that last one. Oh, dear. 

~

Yosuke came to Tokyo with one mission: give Narukami Yu the best Christmas ever. Initially, he had just wanted to see Yu because he missed him more than he could ever communicate through text or phone call. Then he’d realized the potential of this visit. He could spoil Yu like Yu always spoiled him! He couldn’t even remember the last time Yu had been thoroughly shaken by an act of kindness or service directed to him that he was not a part of in any way. 

So, as soon as plans were set, he’d messaged the rest of the gang and began his plotting. In his backpack was a single gift from every person; even Rise’s had arrived on time. He also had Christmas cards from all of Yu’s other friends in Inaba—well, okay, Marie’s was more poem than a card, and the fox had given him a bag of leaves. Still, he was willing to take anything he could get. With Yu, it was less about the gift itself and more about the feeling behind it. Even knowing that it had not made his search for a gift for him any simpler. He was satisfied with what he’d settled on, but it was rare Yosuke ever felt something was truly good enough for his partner, including himself. 

That aside, Yosuke felt pretty good about his plan. Not even Teddie’s teasing about Yosuke trying to score on Christmas with his beloved sensei could get him down. Because it wasn’t about that! It was about Yu, how much he loved his best friend and partner. So what if Christmas Eve was for couples? This was different…even if his feelings were more in line with the nature of the holiday. His intentions were pure, damn it! 

Well, they were until Yu opened his door. The moment he saw Yu’s endearingly arranged bowl-cut, gray eyes and painfully neutral pajamas, his heart burst. Yosuke hurled himself into Yu’s arms and breathed in his laundry-fresh scent so deep he could’ve happily asphyxiated. 

Now, as he sat in Yu’s multipurpose space, he helplessly obsessed over how to get Yu that close to him again. Gods, it had felt amazing to be pressed against Yu’s body. They hadn’t been that close since Yu had held him when he’d cried about not getting into university the second time. It certainly felt different when the affection was given happily rather than because he was having a breakdown. 

“I should confess!” Yosuke immediately recoiled from the thought. He couldn’t confess. Hell no! This trip was supposed to be about Yu, not him and his surely unrequited feelings. Yosuke had watched Yu turn down confessions left and right since second-year. The only person Yu had dated, even though it had been fake, was Ai. There was not a day that went by that Yosuke was not jealous of her or angry at her for spoiling his partner on dating since she’d stressed him out so much with her frequent calls and demands. It was no wonder Yu politely declined every girl that mustered up the courage from that point on. He still turned down Rise at least once a week, and she was a freakin’ idol! Yosuke was a potato compared to her.

No, he needed to refocus. He had to keep his intentions pure, and his heart focused on Yu’s happiness because, at the end of the day, that was all that mattered. He wanted to see his partner smile, especially during this time of year. Yu’s history was riddled with painful winters. Lonely Christmases before Inaba, Dojima and Nanako both hospitalized and near-death during the year of Personas, and lonely Christmases after. Yu had to stay in Tokyo for his third year, and the next year was busy helping his parents pack up their family apartment. Yosuke would not let this year be another flop. Not when he felt partially responsible for still being in Inaba.

Yosuke bit the inside of his cheek. The repeated failure had been a blow to his pride, but what made it worse was how patient Yu remained even though Yosuke knew how lonely Yu was. Yu was the one who suffered the most from his failed exams, and Yosuke hated to see Yu suffer.

“Ready to go?”

Yosuke looked to see he had exited the restroom. His jaw dropped slightly as he took his appearance; Yu was dressed in a slim, black turtleneck that hung on his shoulders way too well and dark, fitted jeans. Yu had never looked so good to him. The urge to reach out in touch hit him like a truck. It was all he could do to not whimper in his panic to stop himself.

“Y-Yeah.” How he even spoke was a mystery to him.

He bundled up again, sliding his beanie onto his head just as Yu secured a scarf around his neck. Yu’s jawline really should not have been so appealing to him. They left the apartment, and Yosuke had to tread carefully on his jellylike legs. It was going to be a long day.

~

“D-Destinyland?!” Yosuke winced as his voice echoed through the underground. He hadn’t meant to be so loud, but really? Yu wanted to take him to Destinyland. Yosuke would have to use most of his year’s paychecks to afford one ticket, let alone two. No way. He knew Yu’s parents still gave him an allowance, but the cost was too much. It was hard enough to imagine Yu alone in Tokyo; he also did not want to imagine him starving.

“Oh. Would it not be interesting?” The neutrality in Yu’s face made him sputter. It was like, he had not even considered the cost.

Interesting? Partner! That’s way too much. Didn’t we say casual?” Plus…there was no way Destinyland was not couples-themed tonight. No doubt Christmas Eve was a special holiday the theme park celebrated like Valentine’s Day and Tanabata. “Plus…isn’t it…you know.”

Yosuke cringed. The tone he’d used did not portray any of the words in his head. He was thinking romantic, intimate, even passionate. Instead, he’d sounded disgusted. Shit!

Yu’s face dropped in a way only Yosuke could perceive. “Oh. You wouldn’t do that with a guy…right.”

“N-No, that’s not what I meant!” Yu stared blankly. “It’s expensive! W-We should do something more affordable. I mean, isn’t Dome Town still a thing here?”

“Oh!” The color seemed to return to Yu’s face. “That makes sense. I must not have been thinking…but do you want to go to Dome Town.”

Dome Town presented the same problem as Destinyland, but he refused to risk seeing Yu look so sad again. “Of course, Partner! Let’s go!”

Yu looked relieved the entire ride to Dome Town. Yosuke tried not to let it puff up his ego too much; after all, he had been the reason for Yu’s worry to start with. Still, there was nothing that felt better than being the reason Yu smiled. Even if his everlasting smile could get a bit weird when it felt out of place. Like that time one of the new kittens in Inaba had bitten him so hard he started bleeding.

They ascended from the subway, walked the distance to the entrance, and Yosuke audibly sighed. The line was longer than he could see, and there was no single person or trio in sight. No matter where he looked, couples were laughing, smiling, sneaking touches, and chattering on like there was nothing in the world except the other.

“We should go.” Yosuke glanced up, surprised to see Yu’s face looking red. He supposed it was windier here than any other place they’d been. “This was a bad idea. I didn’t realize that—that the line would be so long.”

“Don’t worry about it.”

He pushed Yu back toward the subway, hoping his relief wasn’t too noticeable. There were just some things his heart wasn’t ready for. If they had gotten in line, he might have fainted. He prayed the next activity on Yu’s suggestion list wasn’t as, well, suggestive.

~

Yu did not know why he hadn’t thought earlier that Dome Town would be full of loveydovey couples. He earnestly wished he could have been spared the embarrassment. Yosuke didn’t seem to have noticed who composed the line. Yu was thankful for this; gods knew Yosuke could not have kept his mouth shut. And that would’ve spoiled his ability to pretend he was on a Christmas date with Yosuke. And that would have made it awkward between them.

So, they’d gotten back on the subway and headed toward the ice skating rink Yu knew. Something physical would hopefully stop the way trembled whenever Yosuke smiled or did something funny. It had happened too often for him to believe it was the chill in the air.

“Ice skating? I didn’t know you ice skated, Partner.”

“There wasn’t a place to do it in Inaba or Okina.”

“Yeah…I guess not. I bet you’re good at it like you are at everything else.”

From anyone else, Yu would have taken the comment as a dig at him for acting like a show-off, but from Yosuke, he knew the sentiment held genuine admiration. So, rather than finding a way to dismiss his perceived talents, he blushed bright and shoved his gloved hands into his pockets as though he were cold.

“If you say so.”

Yosuke grinned and slung his arm around Yu’s shoulder. Yu stifled a gasp as he was flooded with warmth. “Come on, dude! You’re way too modest. Think I forgot all the times you took down a shadow with one slice?”

“As if you and the others didn’t do the same.”

Yosuke leaned toward him. Yu assumed it was an unconscious movement. “Heh. You’re right about that. Chie could kick the crap out of a shadow. Kanji punched ‘em into oblivion, and Naoto…damn, she was scary.”

“Well, let’s see if you’re still as quick on your feet, hm?”

“I doubt it. No reason to be so quick now that I don’t have to worry about getting you out of the way of an enemy.” He winked. It was a gesture Yosuke often did, but damn, Yu sucked in his breath with a gasp. Yosuke had no idea what he’d just done.

The rest of the walk was spent in silence that made Yu’s skin crawl. He practically shoved his yen at the gatekeeper because he was so nervous. Once they rented shoes and made it to the ice, things felt normal again. Yosuke could skate circles around him, and Yu felt like he’d been hit with the dizzy effect. As it turned out, ice was not his element.

“Partner, hold your posture like this.”

Yosuke’s hands pressed against the small of his back and right underneath his chest. They were warm and gone all too soon. Yu was not even sure if his body had moved; he’d been so focused on the way Yosuke’s hands made him feel. It was jarring but carried such familiarity Yu wondered if these feelings weren’t new after all. Yosuke’s touch had always made him feel good. Had he truly not realized what those good feelings entailed?

“Give me your hands!” Yu squeaked softly when Yosuke grabbed his hands and yanked him forward.

“Yosuke, I’ll—”

“I won’t let you fall. Trust me, okay?”

Yu suddenly forgot that this was the man who crashed his bike consistently enough it fell apart after the first semester. This was the man he met because he’d fallen into a trash can. This was the man that tripped on stairs because he was paying more attention to music in his headphones than where his feet landed. No, all Yu could think about was how great his smile was. Then, they slammed into the side of the rink.

Yu shook off the fall first, realizing he had landed on top of Yosuke. He had somehow managed to wedge his hand between Yosuke’s head and the ice. His fingers throbbed, but he ignored it. Yosuke’s eyes opened, and he stared directly into Yu’s. Yu nearly fell into them. He didn’t notice his head had begun to lower.

“P-Partner?” Yu remembered himself and sat up straight as a rod. He scrambled off Yosuke’s lap, whacking his skates against the wall. “You okay?”

Yu nodded, making his face as neutral as possible. “I was just checking to see if you needed to be resuscitated.”

“Dude, what are—Yu! Your fingers!”

Yu held up his hand, unsurprised to see they were red and appeared to be swelling. No wonder they’d throbbed underneath Yosuke’s head. “I don’t suppose you can still cast diarahan?”

No!” Yosuke nearly shouted. “Dude, we’re takin’ you to a doctor!”

“You don’t have a medicine on you?”

Yosuke became progressively more flustered. Yu hid his smirk. “Stop that! This isn’t the time to make jokes.” He snatched Yu’s uninjured hand and pulled him off the rink. Yosuke’s fury stormed as powerful as a garudyne spell as he forcibly helped Yu out of his skates and back into his shoes. Seeing Yosuke knelt before him with a red face made his body throb differently.

Yu was aghast. The feeling was utterly inappropriate and irrefutable. Somewhere in the years they’d known each other, Yu had fallen in love with Yosuke and had been completely oblivious about it until now. And now that he realized it, the truth was hitting him like a blow from The Reaper.

Perhaps he did need a doctor.

~

The closest doctor they found was eccentric, but she knew what she was doing. Her examination was quick, and the subtle attempts to jokingly intimidate them were more painful than the actual exam. Yu’s fingers were severely bruised, and his middle finger was sprained. Yosuke was just grateful there were no fractures or broken bones. He wouldn’t have been able to forgive himself for being so careless, and right after he’d just flirted joked about being the one to save Yu’s ass. He really was unlucky.  

So, after leaving Dr. Takemi’s office, they found the closest place to rest, which happened to be a laundromat, and Yosuke began applying the medicine. Yu had insisted he could do it on his own, as it wasn’t his dominant hand, but Yosuke wouldn’t hear of it.

Yu sat with his left sleeve slightly rolled up as Yosuke gently applied bruise relief cream to each of his fingers. Yosuke did not miss the way Yu trembled each time he applied pressure; his fingers must have hurt badly, and he was trying to pretend otherwise. Yosuke decided he’d let him have his pride.

“Do you think I used enough, Partner?”

“Mhm.”

“Okay, hold still. I’m going to bandage your fingers now.”

Yu did not protest as Yosuke wrapped the white bandaging around his fingers. The doctor had not said to do this, but Yosuke thought it couldn’t hurt. He wanted Yu’s fingers to be as secure as possible.

“Yosuke, I won’t be able to cook if you wrap it like that.”

Yosuke grimaced. Yu wasn’t going to be able to cook at all like this, no matter how he wrapped his hand. “I’m so sorry, Partner. I shouldn’t have been so careless. You shouldn’t cook like this. We should just grab something while we’re out.”

“No. I can cook. It really doesn’t hurt much.”

Yosuke cut his eyes at him. “Yu, you don’t have to push yourself. It’s not a big deal.”

“But Yosuke—”

“No. You should rest your hand. You don’t want any permanent damage. What if—”

Yu silenced him by placing an uninjured finger on his lips. Yosuke held back his shiver as much as he could. He hoped Yu had not noticed. “Let me cook, Partner.” Yosuke exhaled sharply. Yu used the term of endearment sparingly, so every time he did, it left him breathless. He was unable to argue with him.

“F-Fine.”

Yu smiled a little at his victory, removing the intoxicating finger. Yosuke instinctively licked his lips and embarrassed himself in the process. What was he doing?

“Let’s get lunch in Shibuya. My treat for wrapping my hand.”

Yosuke was too out of him to argue. “Y-Yeah. Sounds good.”

If Yu noticed he was out of it, he didn’t act like it. Yosuke was so grateful. Thinking about how good his lips had tasted after Yu’s touch had gone south to an area he could not afford to be noticed. So much for pure intentions. He was fucked, and not in the way he wanted to be.

They rode the subway again, and this time it was significantly more crowded. Yosuke attributed it to Shibuya being such a popular location, and it was the afternoon now, more people were out. So, he helplessly pressed against Yu in the crowded train car, doing what he could to not crush the hand Yu clutched between their chests. With his head so close to Yu’s, he could hear how short Yu’s breath was and wondered if he was anxious about his hand too. In an attempt to be comforting, Yosuke dropped one of his hands to Yu’s side and held him as securely as he could from his already precarious balancing act holding the train grip.

“You can lean on me, Partner. I’ll make sure nothing jostles you too bad.”

“T-Thank you.”

Yu rested against him, wrapped his other arm around Yosuke in return. Yosuke grinned like an idiot and hoped Yu could not see how he did in his peripherals. There was really nothing that compared to being in Yu's arms.

~

Touching Yu was becoming addictive. He didn’t know how he was going to be able to stop now that he’d started. The touch on the train led to Yosuke pressing a hand to Yu’s back as they walked up the subway’s stairs. Followed by a careful grab at his waist when he perceived Yu had drifted too close to a passing group of people. And now, his arm was slung over Yu’s shoulders as they huddled together on the street.

Yu had not anticipated the diner he frequented would be closed on Christmas Eve, so their lunch plans had come to a screeching halt. Yosuke did not mind waiting as Yu thought about other options. It meant he didn’t have to move away, and being pressed against Yu underneath the lights strung about the Shibuya street was kind of…romantic. If someone had told his younger self he’d think being with another guy was romantic, he would have adamantly refused. Yosuke had changed so much, and he had Yu to thank for it.

“There’s a buffet close by that’s doing a special Christmas meal.”

“A buffet! Sign me up!”

They walked briskly to the buffet. Yosuke managed to press close the entire time under the guise of not wanting to be separated in the crowd. He felt shameless, but he couldn’t stop himself.

“This is it.”

They were standing in front of a hotel called The Wilton. Yosuke furrowed his brows. He was sure he had heard of this place before, but why would he remember it when it had been so long since he lived in Tokyo? It took a moment, then it clicked.

“W-Wait, Partner! Isn’t this buffet like 35,000 yen a person?”

Yu pulled out his phone and quickly searched it up. “Oh, I suppose it is.”

Yosuke couldn’t help the way he stammered. “Partner, why would you take me here?”

Yu had the decency to look a little ashamed. “I read it was good.”

Yosuke let his head plop down upon Yu’s shoulder. “Partner…I seriously don’t understand how you were the one in charge of all our resources. It’s like you have no sense of money.”

“Not if it’s on you.”

Yosuke froze. He turned his head a little and saw that Yu’s expression was genuine. He internally screamed. Could Yu not hear himself when he spoke? Hearing that…what was Yosuke supposed to think? No. No. No. Deadpan was Yu’s sense of humor. This was a joke. Clearly, they had been away from each other too long if Yosuke was losing touch with Yu’s unique brand of humor.

“Hah. V-Very funny.” Yosuke buried his head back in Yu’s shoulder until he was composed enough to pull away. “Let’s just go to that Big Bang Burger we passed.”

“All right.”

It started to snow. Yosuke tried to not take it as a sign from the universe that he should try confessing that night. No matter how many times he swatted the thought, it returned like a song on repeat.

~

Yu had wanted to tell Yosuke he didn’t need to be worried about money, that he had been saving up for a while for the next time he went to Inaba, but it had been hard to speak with Yosuke resting on top of him. Being aware of his feelings apparently meant being aware of Yosuke’s every breath as he rested against him. He was going to go mad at this rate. The way their legs had touched underneath the table at Big Bang Burger had nearly undone him.

Afterward, they went to visit the Buchiko statue and stayed there until the sun began to sink. Yosuke rubbed his hands together to attempt to warm them as he bounced his legs up and down. Perhaps they should have spent time indoors somewhere. Yosuke looked near frozen.

Yu grabbed Yosuke’s hands and carefully wrapped his bandaged ones around them. He lifted them to his mouth and blew as much hot air as he could gather. Then, he rubbed them up and down to try and create friction.

“Is that better?”

When he looked up at Yosuke, the man looked like he’d seen a ghost. Yu frowned, surely his hand rub had not been so terrifying. Could that look mean Yosuke had already lost sensation due to frostbite? He didn’t think Yosuke’s parents would forgive him if he let their son’s hands wither and die in the cold.

“I know where the nearest grocery store here is. How about we go get groceries, pick up a cake, and go back? You look like you could use a hot drink and some time under a blanket.”

Yosuke smiled, but it was soft and sweet. “Yeah. Okay, Partner.”

Yu took that as a sign to stand. Once Yosuke did, he retook his hand and shoved it into his own pocket. Yosuke’s eyes grew wide. Yu panicked and said the only thing that came to mind. “I’ll make sure each of your hands gets time in my pocket to warm them equally.”

Silence.

“Partner…you say the weirdest stuff sometimes…”

Yosuke did not move his hand, so they walked with Yosuke’s and his hand shoved into his coat pocket. Yu had not realized such a simple thing would make him so happy. As they walked, they came across a sidewalk decorated with Christmas lights. Yu could not believe his luck. He’d get to see Yosuke on a trail after all.

“Wow. I forgot how Tokyo goes all out on its decorations.” They walked reverently, eyes looking up or to the side so they could admire every string of lights. They looked especially luminous in the fading sunlight. “This is a good find, Partner. Should we take a picture?”

“Of the lights?”

Yosuke snorted. “No. Of us. Dude, are you being serious?”

Yu and Yosuke had taken plenty of pictures with the gang, but it was rare that they had photos of just the two of them. He couldn’t say yes fast enough. He let Yosuke take care of the angles and the camera. He simply stepped close to Yosuke and smiled where Yosuke was looking. A few clicks later and Yosuke was showing him all the pictures he had taken. His favorite was the one Yosuke had managed to put his arm around him in. His cheeks were rosy from the cold, and his eyes were positively glowing. Yu actually saw some emotion on his own face too. It was perfect, and he was grateful Yosuke had promised to e-mail them all to him. As soon as Yosuke left, that would become his phone background.

They came to a fork on their path. The string lights verged left and continued in a direction opposite from the grocery store. Yu stared at the lights longingly. He hadn’t been ready to say goodbye to the atmosphere it had created between them.

“Why don’t we buy groceries and the cake first, and then we can take that trail back to your apartment? It goes in the same direction, right?”

Yu smiled. He hadn’t realized it, but Yosuke was right. What luck. “All right, Partner.”

“So, what were you going to make?”

“How about fried chicken?”

Yosuke laughed. “Like in those cheesy commercials? Sure, Partner. Just as long as it’s not too much for your hand.”

Yosuke’s concern was sweet and warmed Yu as much as a shot of sake did. If Yosuke kept acting this way, he was going to end up drunk on his affection.

~

Yosuke had missed shopping with Yu. It had been too long since they had walked down grocery store aisles together, talking about anything and everything. When Yu lived in Inaba, it’d become a habit for him to connect his shopping trips with Yosuke’s shifts. Nanako often joined, and every now and then, Teddie would come by to endearingly pester them. Yosuke had forgotten how happy those times were.

They stepped out of the store and back into the cold. Yosuke immediately shivered. The temperature felt like it had dropped, the moon had replaced the sun, and he could see that the snowfall had visibly increased. As a result, the concrete was wet, and puddles had started forming.

“Are you cold, Yosuke?”

Yu was beside him, holding the boxed cake in his uninjured hand. Yosuke was carrying everything else, insistent that Yu should not put any weight in his left hand. “Yeah, but I should be fine to finish our walk. I mean, not like we can do it another day, right?”

Yu frowned. “Yeah.”

Yosuke wanted to eat his words. He hadn’t meant to remind him of their inevitable separation. They still had countless hours together. Now was not the time to feel bad.

“Hey, Partner, cheer up.” He stepped a little closer to the street in an attempt to get Yu to follow him. “We still have plenty of time together, and we should make sure we enjoy every moment, right? I can always come to visit again, and I bet you’ll be in Inaba for New Years’, right?”

Yosuke watched closely as Yu debated his words, eventually settling his doubts with a smile. “Right.”

Before Yosuke could utter the rest of his reassuring speech, a car zoomed by. Yosuke shrieked as the ice-cold water drenched him. “H-Hey!” he managed to sputter after the vehicle that was already turning down another street.

“Yosuke!”

Yu grabbed his wet coat with his free hand and pulled him back into the store. Yu carefully assessed him, feeling how wet his hair, face, and clothes were. Yosuke, on the other hand, was preoccupied with checking the food they’d purchased. Luckily, the cake was the only thing that could have been ruined by that rude driver, and it had been safely in Yu’s grasp.

Yu pulled out his phone. “We should take a cab home. You’ll get sick otherwise.”

His rotten luck won again. Right after he’d said all that stuff about savoring their time together, the universe saw fit to ruin it. He bit back a curse, doing his best to prioritize Yu’s feelings over his disappointment. “I’m sorry, Partner. Maybe we can come back out after we eat?”

Yu smiled the smile he reserved for when he was trying to make someone else feel better. “Yeah, maybe.”

Yosuke would’ve touched him if he wasn’t so wet. So, he nudged Yu’s foot with his own to get his attention. Yu looked up, his expression a wall of patience that Yosuke loved and hated. Yu shouldn’t have to patiently suffer so much disappointment.

“I really did want to finish our walk, y’know?”

Yu’s wall dropped slightly, allowing Yosuke to see just a flash of his regret. “Me too.”

The entire day had been one disaster after the other. Yosuke mentally cursed himself. If Yu had spent the day with anyone else, he was sure it would have gone more smoothly. Did the universe really hate him that much? Yosuke lamented the predicament the entire ride to Yu’s apartment. Only after Yu unlocked the door was Yosuke able to pull himself out of his self-deprecation. He had promised to make this the best Christmas ever, and damn it, the universe was not going to stop him. If Yu could defeat a god, Yosuke could manage to give Yu a nice day. So, he let his smile return to his face, and he helped Yu set out the groceries where he wanted. Then, he helped Yu removed his outer layers so that he didn’t have to strain his hand despite how embarrassing it was to undress him.

“Yosuke, you should take a shower while I cook.”

“Good idea, Partner!” Yosuke stooped down to dig through his bag that was near overflowing with all the gifts he’d crammed into it. Thankfully, Yu had his back to him, so he couldn’t see the shiny wrapping that peeked out from the opening. As Yosuke dug, his stomach slowly sank. It fell entirely once his hand brushed the bottom of his bag. He hadn’t brought a change of clothes. “Shit!”

“What is it, Yosuke?”

Yosuke scrambled to cover his bag and shoved it behind him. “I-uh…forgot to bring a change of clothes…”

Yu looked puzzled, and rightfully so. “That’s not a problem. You can just borrow mine.” He said the words as nonchalantly as he said anything, and it left Yosuke reeling. His heartbeat pounded as Yu walked to where his clothes were and pulled out a set for Yosuke. He handed the clothes to him and returned to the kitchen without another word.

Yosuke stared at the clothes in his hand. He recognized the long-sleeve white shirt and the gray sweatpants, and that was fine, but then he touched the black boxer briefs Yu had included and flushed with a heat so intense he nearly panted. He was holding Yu’s underwear that Yu had given him to wear. His head began to spin with implications and suggestions, and no, no, NO!

“I-I’ll just go commando, Partner… it’s-uh… I’ll be fine.”

“Mhm. Leave your clothes by the door. I can put them in the wash now so you can wear them for your trip back.”

“Thanks!”

Yosuke, red in the face, set Yu’s underwear on his futon and nearly jetted to the restroom. But his eyes caught the way Yu glared down at the vegetables he was awkwardly chopping. After all these years, his beloved partner still hadn’t learned how to ask for help. His shower could wait. Yu, however, couldn’t. He set down the clothes by his bag and slipped into the kitchen.

Yosuke moved beside Yu and placed his hand on his wrist. Yu gasped, but he ignored it in favor of moving Yu’s injured hand away from the cutting board. “Let me help you, Partner.”

Yu’s face was redder than Yosuke had ever seen. Probably because he was embarrassed that he was caught. He shook his head with more energy than usual. “Yosuke, if you don’t shower, you’ll get sick.”

“Keep me warm then.” He bumped Yu out of the way with his hip and took his place. “You want this cucumber sliced thinly, right?”

“Mhm.”

“I’m great with knives, remember? I’ll get it done fast and be out of your way. Promise. You can lean on me. That’s what partners are for.”

Yu’s response was to wrap his arms around Yosuke’s waist and rest his head on Yosuke’s shoulder. Yosuke had not meant it literally, but he couldn’t help but smile at the added warmth on his back and neck. He was probably making a weird expression, and his hands were shakier than before, but Yosuke wouldn’t trade this moment for anything.

~

Yu was overwhelmed in the best way possible. He felt silly smiling so hard as he flitted around while Yosuke was in the shower. Yu had encouraged him to take a soak and wash his hair out of both concern and the hope of buying time. Not only was he cooking, he was also trying to improve the atmosphere.

Yu had parted the curtains so that they could see the snow falling outside. He’d fished out the cat candles, set them on the coffee table, and lit them. He’d gathered his spare blankets to keep Yosuke warm, put the gift he’d made for him and a cup of hot chocolate next to the candles, as well as some of the side dishes he’d already finished.

The setup was soft and sweet, and he was sure it would be calming for Yosuke after such a busy day. If it was overly romantic, well… Yu returned his attention to frying the chicken. He could think more about that after Yosuke was gone.

Yosuke opened the restroom door just as Yu finished moving all of the dishes to the coffee table. The smile he flashed at Yosuke faltered when he noticed how flabbergasted the man looked. Yosuke slowly approached the table and sat, eyeing the candles on the coffee table like they had just insulted him.

Yu cringed. He should’ve asked first. What was he thinking? He leaned forward and blew one out, moving to do the same to the others so he could put them away and never take them out again. 

“N-No! Stop! I-I like it…plus, I bet it saves on electricity, right Partner? Heh…” 

Yu was not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. “Yes. I did this to save electricity.” 

Yosuke ran his fingers through his freshly blow-dried hair. Then, his eyes dropped to the shiny, red package on the table. “P-Partner…?” 

Yu lifted it and placed it in Yosuke’s confused grasp. “I know we said no gifts, but I couldn’t resist giving you something, Yosuke. I hope you don’t mind. I kept it casual just like you requested.” 

There were so many emotions warring across Yosuke’s face. Some Yu recognized having seen them countless times over the years. Confusion, gratitude, and joy. It was hard to tell in the glow of the candlelight, but it seemed like Yosuke was a bit teary-eyed. He lifted his head from the gift and then looked at Yu with an emotional expression he wasn’t used to seeing. Yu didn’t dare try and label it, already feeling breathless by how soft it was. 

“You spoil me too much, Partner. Thank you.” 

“You still have to open it,” Yu teased. Yosuke tore into the wrapping paper to reveal a CD case. He’d already begun reading the song titles Yu wrote on the case before he thought to add, “I’ll e-mail you the digital files tomorrow so that you have them too.” Yosuke’s grin nearly melted him. “Do you want to listen to it together while we eat?” 

“Sure. But first…I actually brought some things for you too.”

Yu felt his brows lift to his hairline. Realizing Yosuke was unable to discern his surprise, he said, “Things? What?” 

Yosuke grinned his cute, mischievous grin and crawled over to where his backpack was. “The real reason I forgot to pack a change of clothes is that my bag is crammed full of gifts for you from everybody—Partner? You all right?” 

Yu blinked, incapable of doing anything else. Yosuke had, once again, left him speechless. They had said casual, no Christmas, no gifts, yet Yosuke had…he’d arranged to get something from everyone Yu knew. 

Yosuke leaned across the table to place his hand on Yu’s forehead like he’d done earlier in the day. “Still not feverish, but your silence is kinda worrying, Partner.” 

“S-Sorry,” Yu practically croaked. 

Yosuke leveled him with a grin. “Weren’t expecting it, huh?” He shook his head. “About time I catch you off guard. Well, anyway, I’ll hand you everything, hold on.” 

And so he did. Yu was handed wrapped packages of varying sizes and several envelopes with Christmas cards from all his friends. Chie had given him at least a month’s supply of meat jelly with a reminder that he needed to keep training. Kanji had knitted him a matching hat, scarf, and set of gloves with cute cat’s embroidered on the surface. Naoto had given him a box set of Sherlock Holmes books, ones she had recommended him a few months ago. Yukiko’s gift was a bundle of baked cookies, but one bite revealed she’d added way too much salt. Teddie gave him a pair of gag glasses and an apple, which he explained he’d learned was a true gift for a sensei. Rise’s was a hi-tech neck massager and a note that he could close his eyes and imagine she was the one massaging him. Dojima’s was an envelope full of yen, and Nanako’s was a cute drawing and a message about how much she missed her big bro. There was a card from Daisuke and Kou, Shu-kun, Ai, Naoki, Yumi, Ayane, Kuroda-san, Minami-san, and Marie. Even the Fox had apparently given Yosuke something for him. He was surprised to find mistletoe hidden amongst the leaves and decided it was best to not mention it to Yosuke. He didn’t want to ruin the moment.

“Yosuke…I…” He saw that Yosuke still had one more package in his hand. “What?”

Yosuke looked nervous, though it was hard to tell in the candlelight. “Uh, I got you something too. I hope you like it.” He thrust it forward with more energy than he had the other gifts.

Yu unwrapped it tenderly, refusing to even damage the paper Yosuke had chosen. He wanted to keep everything. In his hands was a framed picture of the two of them at the riverbank. Yosuke had taken it without Yu knowing as Yosuke was grinning at the camera and holding up a peace sign while Yu was focused ahead.

“We don’t have a lot of pictures together,” Yosuke nearly whispered, “Sorry we’re not both smiling, but I thought maybe it would help while I’m still in Inaba? I know you keep telling me not to get too down on myself about the entrance exams, but Partner, the reason I feel that way is because I feel like I’m letting you down by not being here with you.”

Yu was so overwhelmed with emotion. He wasn’t sure what to do. His body screamed at him to separate any distance between them and hug and kiss Yosuke until he couldn’t breathe, but his brain knew that he couldn’t do that. So, he reached out and placed his hand atop Yosuke’s and squeezed hard.

“Thank you for everything. This is more than I have ever received. Thank you, Partner.”

“You’re welcome.”

Yu lost himself in Yosuke’s eyes. His brown irises were incredibly alluring in the lighting, and they reflected so much warmth and tenderness. He leaned forward, forgetting himself for a moment. Yosuke just looked so—he quickly pulled away, hoping Yosuke had not noticed his lapse in judgement. “I’ll play your CD. Sorry, it isn’t as much as…all this.”

“N-No! It means a lot, Partner. You know I’m always trying to get a feel for what music you like. This is perfect.”

Yu popped the CD into his laptop and set the volume as high as he dared, hoping that he would not disturb his neighbors. Then, he and Yosuke finally ate dinner.

~

Every song on the CD Yu made for him was a love song, and Yu had not even noticed! Yosuke had choked his way through dinner and cake. It’d become a running gag, literally. A new song would start, Yosuke would timidly mention the song’s context, and Yu would blankly mutter his apologies. Yu explained that he’d chosen each song because he always thought about Yosuke when he heard it. That insinuation made everything worse. 

Yosuke had always thought Yu was the smartest guy he knew, but now… How was it possible for someone to be so oblivious? The mixed signals were infuriating. He could’ve sworn Yu had leaned in after their gift exchange, but then he’d moved away like nothing had ever happened. It was killing him. Yosuke didn’t know whether he should confess and relieve himself of this desirous energy or push it down even harder than before. 

“Oh, it’s late. Your train leaves early, right?” 

Yu was looking at the cat clock that revealed it was a little after 11 PM. Yosuke’s train left at 5 AM. Shit. Guess he was pushing it down after all. 

“Ah, yeah…sorry, Partner.” 

Yu shook his head, clearly hiding his genuine expression. “No. Don’t worry. Do you want to borrow some pajamas?” 

“Nah, this is comfy enough. So, where’s your spare futon? I’ll help you set it up.” 

Yu was quiet, so Yosuke was quiet. He tilted his head as he watched Yu deliberate something while he stared at his socks. “I don’t have one.” 

“You don’t have one…” Yosuke gasped. “Partner, why didn’t you tell me? I could’ve brought a sleeping bag!” 

Now that the lights were on, Yosuke could see how cutely pink Yu’s face was. “I wanted to be a good host. You can sleep in the futon. I have some spare blankets I’ll use.” 

Yosuke suspected they were the same blankets he was currently wrapped in. “No, you should sleep in the futon, Partner. I’m already wrapped up.” 

“No, I insist. Please. I wouldn’t sleep well knowing you were on the floor.” 

“And you expect me to?!” Yu flinched, and Yosuke winced. He hadn’t meant to raise his voice, but gods, no, he wasn’t going to make Yu sleep on the floor in his own apartment. 

“We could share it.” 

Yosuke sputtered at the nonchalance in Yu’s tone. Share? Share? Wait. That was actually a good idea. With their shared body heat, they’d both be comfortable and—Yosuke blushed as he realized he could touch Yu all night. 

“Great idea, Partner!” 

In reality, Yosuke was not as brave as his imagination. Yu and Yosuke laid side by side, tense, and on their backs. Yosuke had glued his eyes to the ceiling. He knew if he so much as glanced at Yu, the barriers around his feelings would snap, and he’d lose his best friend. 

“Are you comfortable, Yosuke?” 

“Y-Yeah. You, Partner?” 

“Mm.” 

“Well, g’night.” 

“Sleep well, Yosuke. I set the alarm for 3:45.” 

Shit, that was early. Yosuke stole a glance and saw that Yu’s eyes were already closed. He did the same and made a mental note to not let Yu escort him to the train station. It would be freezing, and Yu should stay warm in his blankets. He didn’t want Yu to catch a cold on account of politeness. He fell asleep thinking of excuses he could tell Yu. 

When Yosuke woke again, he was spooning Yu snugly. Yosuke gasped quietly, managing not to stir Yu with his shock. He carefully unhooked his arms from Yu’s side and shoulder and rolled onto his back. Any peace he might have had was ruined when Yu mumbled in his sleep and rolled over on top of him. Yu’s legs draped atop his, and his arm clung to his torso. He looked like a beautiful, sleeping angel, and Yosuke hated how it made all the warmth in his body travel south. 

No. no. NO. Now was not the time to get a boner. Not with Yu on top of him, not in his partner’s bed. Oh FUCK. If Yu even shifted, he might touch it and shit that wasn’t helping. Yosuke clamped his eyes shut and tried to think of anything other than how Yu’s body felt pressed against his. He was so warm and soft, and he could feel Yu’s gentle breaths through his shirt. Yosuke was harder now. All he could do was whine and pray that this would all be over soon. 

“Yosuke?” 

Yosuke opened his eyes and saw Yu staring at him. He lifted his head from Yosuke’s chest, revealing just how beautifully messy his gray hair was. Yosuke choked down his saliva and tried not to look at Yu’s inviting lips. 

“D-Did I wake you?” 

“…No. I’ve been awake since you cuddled me.” Yosuke’s brain short-circuited. “I-I thought you did it on purpose because you called me partner, but then I realized you were asleep, and I was too afraid to move. Then you moved, and I missed it and thought I could pretend to be asleep, but…that was wrong of me.” 

“Partner, what the hell,” Yosuke whispered far too softly. 

“You have every right to be angry. I took advantage of you. I just…loveyousomuch.” Yu froze. Yosuke froze. Had Yu just said what he thought he said? Yu suddenly pulled away from Yosuke and pushed out of the blankets. 

Yosuke leaped up to grab him. “Don’t go!” He clung to his back, face pressed between his shoulder blades. 

“Yosuke, I don’t understand.” 

“I love you too, Partner. I’ve loved you this whole time. Please, please stay. Please, Yu.” 

He felt Yu shudder, so he squeezed him even harder. Yu groaned low, and Yosuke reacted. He pulled himself up and released Yu, which prompted Yu to turn into him suddenly. Their foreheads touched, lips mere inches from each other. Yosuke’s hands flew to Yu’s face. Yu whispered his name. Yosuke moved in—The alarm blared throughout the tiny apartment, shattering the mood with its volume and reality. 

Yosuke recoiled, and Yu sprang away from him like a rabbit. He swiftly turned off the alarm and held it tightly in his hand like he wanted to throw it against a wall. Yosuke couldn’t breathe. He’d been so close, but all he had now was a ghost of a kiss. He wanted to cry at the unfairness of it all, but he had to leave. 

So, he stood on his shaky legs and prepared to move. He turned to Yu to apologize, only to find Yu staring at him like he wanted to eat him. Yosuke was assaulted by a wave of heat that traveled through his body. He remembered he was hard and that he hadn’t worn underwear, and it seemed Yu couldn’t take his eyes off of it. 

“P-Partner, don’t look, I—”

Yu stood with the grace of a dancer and eliminated the distance between them like a shadow. Yu’s lips pressed against his, and Yosuke helplessly grabbed him. In a tangle of limbs, they fell back onto the futon, groping and kissing as though they would never get another opportunity. 

Yosuke gasped at the way Yu’s body pressed atop him. The way their legs weaved together was delicious. His mind clouded as his hands sunk underneath Yu’s shirt. Yu’s skin was soft, almost silky, and Yosuke squeezed and grabbed whatever he could on his way down to Yu’s pajama pants. He slipped a hand underneath Yu’s pants and underwear and squeezed hard, evoking a needy cry of “Partner” that completely undid him. He yanked Yu’s pants and underwear down and flipped him onto his back. 

Yu was a panting mess. His eyes were halfway open, his lips were red and bruised, and he was blushing from his ears down to the skin of his stomach that Yosuke could see from his lifted shirt. Yosuke’s eyes fell on Yu’s dick, hard and a little wet. He licked his lips, and Yu whined. The rest of their clothes were quickly removed so they could touch each other everywhere. 

Yosuke wanted everything. He wanted Yu’s lips, his hips, and his ass, but truthfully, he did not know what to do even though his body burned for him to try. Yu bit down on his neck as Yosuke wrapped his hand around Yu’s dick. It pulsed at the touch of his fingers, so Yosuke squeezed it lightly. He delighted in the cries of “Partner” and “Yosuke” that flooded from Yu’s mouth interchangeably as he rolled him in his hand. 

“Tell me what to do,” he breathed, not bothering to soften his own moan when Yu’s hand wrapped around his dick. “Please. I-I wanna make you feel so good, Partner.” 

Ngh—!” 

Yosuke held himself up with his knees, and a hand as Yu guided Yosuke’s hand around his dick. It was the most erotic thing Yosuke had ever done, and it took everything for him not to come then into Yu’s hand that grew bolder with every stroke. It was a matter of seconds before they each got a feel for what the other wanted. Yu moaned and twitched whenever Yosuke stroked down and brushed his head with his thumb, and Yosuke felt like his blood was on fire with every jerk of Yu’s fist. It felt good, so fucking good Yosuke’s whole body was buzzing. His ears were filled with Yu’s cries of pleasure, his eyes couldn’t look away from Yu’s blissed-out expression, he smelled their shared musk, he tasted Yu on his lips even without kissing, and the dick in his hand was so warm. 

“Yosuke, I’m—hah!” 

Yu came, thrusting into Yosuke’s hand, and Yosuke followed helplessly. He fell onto Yu and held him tight. Their breath came in gasps, and Yosuke wanted nothing more than to settle into Yu and fall back asleep, but he couldn’t. There was so much to talk about, and he had a train to catch. Yosuke’s high quickly crashed as that realization struck him. He’d confessed, Yu said he loved him, and now he had to leave. 

Yu shifted under him, lifting up onto his elbows. Yosuke sat back on his heels. Yu smiled, but it was obviously strained. He sat upright and hugged himself to keep warm. “You should get dressed. I’ll try and get a cab, so you don’t have to walk. You should still make it.” 

“…Right.” 

Yu leaned forward and kissed his temple. Yosuke savored the feeling. He watched as Yu stood and walked away to get Yosuke’s dried clothes. Yosuke tried to remind himself that he and Yu would see each other for New Year’s, that they could visit each other whenever, that their separation wasn’t forever, but it wasn’t working. Nothing could stop the way his heart was breaking at the thought of leaving Yu. He couldn’t do it. No, he wouldn’t do it. 

He chased after Yu, cornering him where Yu had hung his clothes near a heater. He wrapped his arms around Yu and rested his head near his neck. Usually, Yosuke would have felt self-conscious at being naked and seeing Yu naked, but truthfully, he’d never felt more comfortable. It felt right to be with Yu like this.

“Don’t worry about it,” he whispered as he tried to remove his clothes from Yu’s hands. 

“But your train.” Yu tightened his grip.

“I don’t care.”

“Your shift?”

Yosuke shook his head into Yu’s skin. “Nuh-uh.”

“Your family?”

Yosuke yanked the clothes from Yu’s grasp and turned him so they were facing each other. “They’ll forgive me, but I’d never forgive myself if I left you now.”

“I don’t want to make things harder for you, Yosuke.”

“Partner…” Yu tried to look away, but Yosuke stopped him by cupping the side of his face. “You have always made things better. So, let’s clean up a little, go back to bed, and we can talk about this after some more sleep.”

“Okay.”

Yu kissed him, and Yosuke felt like he could fly again. They toweled each other down along with any mess they could get off the futon and then laid down, this time legs twined, and foreheads pressed together. Yosuke watched as Yu’s eyes closed, still in disbelief any of this was happening. He never would have thought Yu returned his feelings, but he was so glad he did. He let his eyes close, only to open them again.

“Shit. Partner…I didn’t bring any clothes.”

“You don’t need any.”

Yu swallowed Yosuke’s gasp with his lips, and sleep was soon forgotten.

~

Yu woke with a broad smile like he had for the past several days. It was hard to wake any other way with Yosuke sleeping next to or on top of him. Yu reached toward his alarm clock and turned it off. It was ten minutes till they needed to get up to catch the train to Inaba for New Year’s. Yu preferred to rouse Yosuke himself rather than have his beloved’s sleep interrupted by that incessant blaring. 

He kissed Yosuke’s forehead, angling himself so that he could kiss his cheeks and slightly parted lips too. Yosuke groaned tiredly but did not pull away from Yu’s fluttering kisses. “Partner…it’s too early…” 

“You wanted to catch the earliest train.” 

“Why—mmph!” Yu broke their kiss with a grin. Yosuke, despite his sleepiness, managed to match his joy. “I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of that.” 

“Good.” Yu wrapped his arms around Yosuke’s bare chest and snuggled. “It would make living together as partner-partners difficult if you did.” 

This time Yosuke groaned in annoyance. “I told you that sounds dumb. I only said that because I was nervous and couldn’t think of anything better!” Yu chuckled into Yosuke’s skin and breathed in his scent as deeply as he could. Yosuke smelled more like Yu than anything now since he’d been borrowing his clothes for days, but somehow that comforted Yu even more. It was like Yosuke was his. Yu couldn’t wait for Yosuke to bring his stuff to Tokyo so he could smell more like Yosuke too. 

“Come on. We have to get up.” 

“Okay, okay.” 

Yu rose so that Yosuke could. The blanket slid down Yosuke’s chest, revealing skin that Yu was now intimately familiar with. He admired the round, red marks that now dotted Yosuke’s neck and collarbones with satisfaction. How he could go from denial of his feelings to acceptance to possession so quickly surprised him, yet Yu found that he felt more alive now than ever, and since Yosuke didn’t seem to mind the intensity of the amorous behavior, he didn’t hold back. 

“You’re looking at me like that again, Partner.”

Yu smirked. “Can’t help it. Sorry.”

“We’re going to miss the train, aren’t we?”

Yu nuzzled into Yosuke’s neck like a cat. “Maybe…depends on how fast I can make you come apart, Partner-Partner.”

Yosuke swatted him with a pillow. “Ugh, Yu! Stop! Totally ruined the mood.”

Yosuke laughed, and Yu joined him. If this was how it was going to be from now on, Yu counted himself blessed. Yosuke had been right before. He’d been terribly lonely, but it was a loneliness only Yosuke could soothe. Now that they were going to be together, he doubted he’d ever feel that way again. So, he stood with Yosuke and prepared to take the next big step in their lives together.